16th March. 2002
THE TRUTH NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH
I received hundreds of emails from Somali well-wishers from
all over the world, with some exceptions. Few non-Somalis
(judging by their names) sent me and to banadir.com nasty
emails telling us "to get lost." One lady from Seattle in
the United States asked me if I had nothing better to do "
instead of attacking the West with your pen."
my dear lady. The opposite is the truth. I've never dreamed
of attacking the countries that welcomed us and gave us safe
haven, free Medicare and welfare cheques after we have been
uprooted from our own country by people with guns. If for
any reason you are wronged because of who your are and what
you stand for, I am fully prepared to stand by your side with
my pen, come what may.
is that we are being attacked both at home by our own homegrown
terrorists and abroad by bigoted and narrow-minded people
because of who we are. Others quickly jump to the conclusion
that we are the most troublesome people in the world. Again,
the opposite is true. Visitors in peacetime Somalia observed
that the Somalis are cheerful, hospitable and friendly people.
But in the Diaspora some people accuse us of being very loud
in countries where people whisper when talking to each other
in subways, in street cars and in elevators, while pet-lovers
remark that we are terrified about their pets and often distance
ourselves from their beloved dogs!
lady, I do not have the tools of tyranny as bombs, guns, bazookas,
bayonets, teargas and "Daisy Cutters". All I own is an old
pen with which to vent my anger and frustrations against ignorance,
bigotry, jingoism and stereotyping. The pen helps me express
myself and explain to people like you, my dear lady, who we
are and our concept of life on this planet that your people
prefer to call a Global Village, whatever that means. As the
old saying goes "The pen is mightier than the sword" - or
have a long history, longer than the United States or Canada,
and pride themselves on speaking the same language and profess
the same religion.
British, for they are probably the only people in the world
who know the Somalis, their culture and their way of life.
No wonder they called us the Irish of Africa because, unlike
other Africans, they had hard time colonizing us. Sir Richard
Burton, the great British traveler and imperialist visionary
have had hard time explaining to his audience in London that
in the 18th Century when the British administration was in
shambles, the Somalis had very efficient administration in
the ancient city of Seylac and that the people there were
"civilized in contrast to other peoples in the region". How
could savages in Africa have an efficient administration?
The stiff upper lips asked.
remember that, as recent as 1993, the British turned down
an invitation from George Bush, senior, to join an international
task force code named "Operation Restore Hope." It was supposed
to be a humanitarian mission (initially at least), but the
British remembered the anti-colonial rebellion that developed
under the leadership of Sheikh Mohamed Abdulle Hassan (The
Mad Mullah to the British) between 1914 to 1920. Although
most of the ferocious engagements were fought inside the former
British Somaliland "Protectorate" they overflowed into former
Italian Somaliland and the Ethiopian-occupied territory when
these powers lent their support to the British campaign.
the Sheikh's mission was directed against the Ethiopians and
the Italians as much as the British.
his own exceptional personal charisma and fame, the Sayyid
(as he was called by his followers) was remarkably successful
in applying the traditional guerrilla warfare. His forces
quickly weathered the British and their allies and gained
the upper hand in the battlefields.
the British adopted a new policy and with the help of locally
raised camel constabulary kept the insurgents at bay for a
short period of time until 1920 when a combined air, sea and
land made a break through. The Royal Air Force (RAF), the
first ever used in Africa against African insurgents, bombed
the formidable stronghold at Taleh.
died in his sleep probably of malaria while trying to regroup
his forces and his movement finally collapsed. He lost a battle
but was not defeated.
was no shortage of Somali heroes who fought against intruders.
Before the Sayyid appeared on the scene, another hero, Ahmed
Gurey (Ahmed the left handed) heroically fought against the
Ethiopians and their Portuguese supporters and put them in
a deadly corner for a very long time.
unsung Somali heroes and poets appeared in the Somali political
landscape. These included Mohamoud Harbi, Hassan Gheddi Abtow,
Nasiib Bundo, Farah Safey (Farah, the Swords-man) and Abdullahi
Isse Mohamoud (transcript of a United Nations memorandum in
Lake Success, 1947 under the title of a "Lone Somali Voice
for independence"). This is not to say that we did not have
our share of turncoats and Quislings in our history. And like
every nation, we tried in our own modest way to keep our own
list of WHO IS WHO in Somali history, orally if not written,
in order to pass them on to future generations.
WHY ARE WE HERE? We unenthusiastically ended up in North America
for the same reason, or even worse, as your ancestors who
sailed to America and Canada - to flee from persecution, human
rights violation, harassments and death. Our cities, towns
and villages have been reduced to smoking ruins. The shear
devastation is absolutely staggering. The situation is as
volatile and dangerous as ever. Abroad we bravely endured
the culture shock, the language problem, the harsh winter,
the bullying by security guards, landlords and employers,
not to mention stony-faced immigration and law-enforcement
of the Somali refugees have been debated on and off since
1991 when the first wave arrived at Toronto's Pearson Airport
with only the clothes on their backs. However, their hopes
for a new life in Canada have been shattered when successive
Federal Immigration Ministers decided to keep tens of thousands
of Somali refugees in legal limbo, because according to immigration
honchos in Ottawa, the Somalis were undocumented and must
remain in Canada for five years before their cases could be
decided - a clear violation of the 1952 Geneva Convention
Ali, Chairman of the Somali-Canadian Association in an interview
with CBC radio on Thursday said the Somali refugees were unable
to find decent jobs, because they were not landed immigrants,
because they lacked what Canadian employers euphemistically
call "The Canadian experience", or they were unable to speak
either of the two official languages. Thus they were forced
to live in concrete jungles known as Dixon Road on the shrinking
welfare cheques to pay rents, feed and clothe their children.
Many of these Somalis are qualified engineers, doctors, geologists,
pharmacists, lawyers and mechanical engineers, but they were
forced to work as casual labours, taxi drivers, janitors,
pizza deliverers, parking lot attendants or security guards.
community leaders and human rights advocates believe that
the Somalis have been unjustly singled out because of their
skin colour or their women's dress code. Obviously "designer"
(white) immigrants were given the red carpet on arrival. For
example, immigrants and refugees from the Balkans and eastern
European countries did not face these hurdles.
a poem by a 15-year-old Somali schoolgirl who took part in
her school poetry competition in Toronto (Canada) in 1999:
came from another country
I wear headscarf (xijaab)
I look different
I don't belong here
People look at me
And I know what they say
From another country
Who am I?
And why am I here?
Take me away
From this place
I don't want to be
Where I don't belong
I want to go home
Where I belong.
gallantly expresses with conviction how every Somali in the
Diaspora, young or old, feels today. To honour her, I have
adopted the title of her poem "FROM ANOTHER COUNTRY"
for my new book currently under review by Canadian and US
M. Afrah © 2002
Are you tired of reading distorted stories about Somalia by
armchair authors? Order the "SOMALI
TRAGEDY," by M. M. Afrah 204 pages with photos
and glossary of Somali history.
It is an eyewitness account of the clan warfare and the US/UN
military involvement in the Somalia debacle. $US20/ including
H&S by airmail.
Mode of payment: International Money Order or through
Somali money transfer companies near you. Order the book directly
from the Author by sending your email to email@example.com
Mr. Afrah is an outspoken Author/Journalist and a member of
the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) and the
New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). He
contributes hard-hitting articles to Canadian and international
newspapers and magazines on the Somalia situation "through
the eyes of a man who covered the country for more than two
of us remember his critical articles in his weekly English
language HEEGAN newspaper, despite a mandatory self-censorship
introduced by Guddiga Baarista Hisbiga Xisbiga Hantiwadaagga
Somaaliyeed in 1984 and the dreaded NSS. I am very proud to
know that Mr. Afrah openly defied the draconian censorship
laws and went ahead to write what he thought was wrong in
the country. He received several death threats from the warlords
and was briefly held hostage by gunmen in 1993. But he remained
defiant and continued to send his stories of carnage and destruction
to Reuters news agency. He still is!